Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015 Astronomy Festival - Great Basin National Park

 One of our favorite fall events to attend is the Astronomy Festival at Great Basin National Park. (Here are posts from 2012, 2013, and 2014.)  We started out with the talent show on Thursday night, where an array of performances showcased talent by park employees.

The kids had school the next day, so we couldn't stay to look through the telescopes, but the skies were beautiful, so I'm sure those that did had great views.

On Friday afternoon I signed up for the astrophotography workshop and picked up a couple tips to improve my night sky photography. Derek Demeter was the workshop leader.

I had planned to go to Derek's keynote speech, but an EMT call had me changing my plans. Instead, I went to the Saturday sunrise program at the Baker Archeological Site. To my surprise, there was quite a large crowd.

We heard about how this Fremont Village was laid out with astronomy in mind, with the buildings oriented certain ways to show when it was planting and harvest time. The village was inhabited from about 1220 to 1295.

The Fremont Village was small, probably just a few families, and they grew crops nearby with water from Strawberry Creek (which now flows pretty far away, but if you look closely you can see the swale that used to bring the water).

The light was fantastic as the sun came up.

The curbs show where the buildings were, which were excavated in the 1990s by BYU and BLM.

I took a lot of photos.

Finally I knew I better get going. If you visit this free site, there's a self-guiding booklet available at the trailhead (the trail is about .25 miles roundtrip). It's a very nice booklet that explains a lot.

Later that day we went backpacking to take advantage of the new moon skies (see day 1, night, and day 2 posts if you missed them), so we didn't get to look through the telescopes the third night either. Nevertheless, it was fun participating in a few of the astronomy festival events, and I think it had record attendance. The weather was perfect, and the high elevation and remoteness make for some fantastic night skies.

If you're interested in going, save the dates for next year's astronomy festival: September 29-October 1, 2016.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hike to Kanarra Creek Falls near Cedar City, Utah

Since we have to take an entire day off to go to the dentist in Cedar City, I figured we should try to do something fun so we didn't just drive all day. The aquatic center didn't open until 4 pm, the bowling alley was a little pricey, no good movies at the cheap movie theater, no plays showing at the Shakespeare Festival, so I decided we would go for a little hike. I had heard that Kanarra Creek was a wonderful place to hike and wasn't far away. So after doing some errands, we drove there (directions and maps here). We could have parked at city hall for free and walked a few blocks, but it was already getting a little late in the day, so we paid $10 to park in the private parking lot. About five cars were in the parking lot. No one in the handicapped spaces next to the stairs.

The information kiosk that begins, "This is a difficult hike." The kiosk also said "Plan on spending at least four hours up and back." I was hoping we could make it a little faster, as we still had to do grocery shopping and had a long drive when we finished.

The hike starts on a steep gravel road and passes the water tanks for the town of Kanarraville.

Then we went down hill towards the creek. It was late September, so I was a little surprised by how warm it was and how green the trees still were. I was kind of hoping for lots of fall colors, but I guess that will happen in October.

The kids were definitely a bit grumbly. However, once the trail got harder and we started walking in the water more, their attitude definitely improved.

We got more and more excited as the canyon walls got higher.

In a bit over an hour, we reached the first narrows section. I had checked the forecast and there was a 0% chance of rain. Perfect, because if you were in the narrows during a flash flood, it would be a bad situation.

When Desert Boy saw the narrows, he couldn't quite believe that was our trail. I think his exact words were, "We have to hike in that?"

"Yep," I replied.

"But there's no trail."

I smiled. "That's the point."

Although I had them hiking in swim suits and some technical clothes, their feet got cold. And there was a little more whining.

But soon we reached the first waterfall, and suddenly they forgot about their cold feet and started thinking about the challenge in front of them. Desert Girl scampered up the ladder before I even had a chance to ask her if she would be comfortable doing it.

The canyon opened up a bit and we saw some smaller waterfalls. On hot summer days, I would hang out here for awhile. But it felt cooler now, so we kept going.

As we entered a second section of narrows, the water got a little deeper.

The beta I had read about the hike said the second waterfall could be harder to climb around, but on our trip the ladder there was in good shape.

We were a team now, overcoming obstacles in the canyon.

The canyon was absolutely gorgeous.

After the second waterfall the canyon opened up again and we found a geocache, had a snack, warmed up in the sun a little, then headed back downstream.

Desert Boy was ready to tackle the ladders on his own. (By the way, some of the ropes and webbing tying the ladder in place and for handlines are really worn--inspect them before you commit all your weight to them.)

Desert Girl wanted a belay, so I tied a full-body webbing harness for her and attached some accessory cord.

The belay gave her a little more confidence, and she did great going down.

The trickiest spot turned out to be this log, where Desert Girl slipped off and landed in a puddle, getting quite wet. I had a rain jacket that I put on her and that helped warm her up.

Going down the ladder by the first waterfall was a piece of cake.

Then it was time for more hiking. I've already ordered neoprene socks for the kids so they can do this again and enjoy it a little more.

They dried out quickly once we reached the road and headed back. It took us 3.5 hours to go up above the second waterfall and back. We saw about 20 people in the canyon on a weekday afternoon. According to reports I've read and the size of the parking lot, I imagine it can get super busy on weekends, with probably ten times that amount of people. But I have to say, the canyon is worth visiting, it's a beauty.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015 Wheel-a-thon

 It was time again for the Wheel-a-thon, a fundraiser for the local schools. Grades K-2 ride eight miles and grades 3-6 ride 16 miles. They stop each mile to get a mark and for water and a snack.

Here are the younger kids getting ready. They were so excited!

I rode with and it was fun stopping at each mile marker to play around. We also talked about rabbitbrush, greasewood, Lake Bonneville, yoga, animal bones, aspens turning color, and more during the breaks. They were a captive audience for about two minutes each time.

While we were riding north, the older kids were riding south before turning around. Here's the first group of them.

And another cluster...

And the tail end, with more volunteer parents bringing up the rear.

For some kids, getting the mark was a big deal.

Jenny was another parent that rode with the younger kids.

The weather really cooperated this year, with very little wind and no precipitation.

Willow sure enjoyed the stops. She wanted to see my camera!

We went at a nice slow pace so the kids kept going. They did really awesome. We started singing around mile 5, and they kept making up songs the rest of the way.

The next few mile marker stops. Thanks to the volunteers!

Jenny getting creative with her photography.

All of the younger kids made all eight miles! What an accomplishment.

The older kids did really well too.

Then it was time for the celebratory lunch.

Yum! This is definitely one of my favorite fundraisers. Fresh air, some exercise, and food at the end.
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